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SEABRIDGE SCANDAL! WHO BENEFITS? By Raphael Fyzabad

posted 30 Apr 2017, 05:56 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 30 Apr 2017, 06:05 ]
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The sea bridge for passengers and cargo between Trinidad and Tobago again popped up in the spotlight with the usual “rah rah” from the usual suspects on the issue. A lot of mocking pretenders are again talking dey talk, generating, as usual, more heat than light on the matter.


Examples are: Watson Duke – no barge because of sea blast! No coast guard vessel, it compromises national security;

Chistlyn Moore – goods will fall off, trucks will be covered in sea blast;

Tobago Chamber – Galicia or nothing! Best vessel in the world! No barge under any circumstances! They want to kill we! We go starve!;

Former Port Authority (PATT) board member, ex-PNM stalwart – 18 months contract was approved by PATT. Minister Hinds kill the contract;

Prime Minister – a review of the file indicates a corrupted procurement process. Call the AG, the police! Criminals must be charged! Hog snouts feeding in the Treasury trough!

Minister of Works – PATT committed government to an 18 month contract ending in October 2017. Charter agent attempts to blackmail government into 5 year contract, ultimately costing $300 million dollars without proper tender process!

Facts are stubborn things! They don’t die or fade away! Regardless of which politicians (UNCOPNM/THA) are in charge of the public purse, a corrupt, wasteful arrangement continues to cost citizens

Let us ignore the absurd statements; expose the self-serving agendas of the mocking pretenders talking loudest and shine light on the essential issue.

TIMELINE 

The PP government approved the procurement of a vessel to provide transport of goods and passengers between Trinidad and Tobago in 2014. It was supposed to be a temporary measure for 6 months.

PATT issued Requests for Proposals (RFP) to several providers, outlining the criteria the vessel must meet. PATT hired an attorney to act as a consultant to PATT for the process. Responses were received by PATT from providers offering a vessel. The PATT consultant turns out to be an agent for one of the responders to the RFP, after collecting close to a million dollars for work done on the procurement.

PATT accepted proposal for a vessel – Super Fast Galicia- proposing an initial six month lease on condition an inspection and sea trial is executed to ensure the vessel meets the requirements set out in the RFP.

The PATT CEO and Chief Engineer visited Gibraltar on 2014/03/17 and conducted an inspection and sea trial.

On 2014/03/24, the report is submitted to the PATT. The report stated the vessel Galicia failed to meet and fulfil requirements set out in the RFP. It is unable to dock as a roll on roll off vessel at both the Tobago and Port of Spain ferry terminals. Another $50 million is needed to be spent to dredge the Port of Spain ferry terminal approach to use it efficiently.

In addition US$1600 daily needs to be spent on a barge to facilitate loading in Port of Spain and the monthly cost to operate it is set to increase during the life of the lease.

It would be normal at this point in any procurement process, in any serious country, to reject the Galicia offer and search again for a suitable vessel to be procured; but, alas, this is T&T, where normal is for someone or some group of persons to corruptly secure personal benefits any time the public purse is opened.

Despite all these FACTS as to the unsuitability of the vessel, the PATT/PP cabinet entered a lease agreement, not for six months but for one year in the first instance. Cabinet released $23 million dollars on 2014/04/04.

The vessel arrived in Port of Spain and spends months anchored outside the port, unable to operate until it gets approval to moor in front the Hyatt. On its first voyage to Tobago, it completely missed the Scarborough port and heads to the cement dock at Studley Park. The one year lease ended in 2015 and it is continued on a month to month arrangement.

FEEDING CONTINUES 

The 2015 elections are held. New government appointed a new PATT Board and the feeding at the public purse continued in earnest. The Board offered an eighteen month lease to the agent of the vessel and the offer is accepted at an agreed cost. The new Minister of Works seemed to accept the new proposal but the PATT Board’s new Chairman, Christine Sahadeo, for some reason did not. She jumped off the ship of hogs feeding and resigns.

Meantime the ship’s owners say they no longer want an 18 month lease, they want effectively a lease for 3 years plus option to renew for 2 years. The hog snouts sink deep into the trough on the T&T animal farm; but some hogs are more equal than the PP hogs and a hog squeals foul on the deal!

Suddenly, the owners of Galicia gives two weeks’ notice that it will take the ship and go on Good Friday 2017 unless the cabinet approves a three year plus two year contract at a cost of $300 million (including paying the Hyatt for damages, $50 million to dredge the Port of Spain terminal – none for the Tobago terminal - continued use of the cruise ship pier, although being inconvenienced every time a cruise liner or naval warship docks and continued rental of a barge in Port of Spain).
Image result for port authority trinidadEnter Prime Minister Rowley. He growls that the government will not be blackmailed. He says that the entire procurement history smells like rotten fish and the Cabinet will not give a sole selected tender to the Galicia gang that will ultimately cost the taxpayers $300 million.

The Government hires senior counsel who ‘advises’ that a valid contract exists until October 2017.All hogs raise snouts from the trough squealing in rage! A heated pretend ‘discourse’ ensues, involving former Minister Cadiz, Watson Duke, spokespersons for the Tobago Chamber etc.
CUI BONO? 

As Sprangalang might say – it have people missing in this story! The tale being peddled in the media reads like Animal Farm - T&T version! Citizens, including the people of Tobago, must ask all the characters the one question nobody is asking …CUI BONO?

In the courts when a matter is before the judicial officers, the question is asked cui bono? This is Latin for WHO BENEFITS in this matter.

The Tobago Chamber of Commerce members and business people? - YES! The government provides a subsidy on the cost of transport of goods to Tobago by providing a cheap ferry cargo service but the business parasites turn around and hike the prices of goods to make unreasonable profits from residents and visitors alike. They benefited from this sweetheart deal where citizens subsidise their transport costs and were bold face enough to want to continue to drown in honey for the next five years and, by all indications, when the smoke has cleared, they will!

The people of Tobago? - NO! Business people charge residents and visitors higher prices for goods they buy in Tobago, coming from Trinidad. Why must the piece of cheese that sells for $9 in Trinidad cost $19 in Tobago?

The owners of the Galicia and the barge? - YES! They wanted to continue feeding at the trough.

The agents, attorneys and Board hogs with their snouts in the trough? – YES! They wanted to continue their feeding frenzy at expense of the public purse!

We need to forget the heat, the partisan political agendas and the normal garbage surrounding the issue. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let’s expose light on it by asking serious questions.

Is Tobago the only island in the world, or in Caricom that uses a ferry to transport goods and passengers between islands?

NO! Grenada > Carriacou; Tortola > St. Thomas; >Virgin Gorda; Anegada, Scrub Island; St. Vincent >Bequia >Mustique all depend on sea ferries. Do the people of Carriacou, Bequia, Mustique, Virgin Gorda etc. starve as a result? NO! Incidentally governments do not own and operate those ferries.

Must citizens subsidise business transport costs in Tobago and then pay higher prices for goods so that Hadad (this name keeps popping up), Cruickshank et al can continue to make big profits?

In Trinidad, the public purse subsidises PTSC to carry passengers from Port of Spain, San Fernando, Toco, Mayaro, Sangre Grande, Point Fortin, not goods for business people to dig out everybody eye for profit. Citizens must get equal treatment in Tobago and in Trinidad

The corrupt ferry subsidy deals that gives unfair benefits to BIG BUSINESS and digs out the consumers’ eyes in Tobago must be brought to an end. Let’s see if the boy from Mason Hall has the intestinal fortitude to tackle the very vested interests upon whom politicians depend to have their crack at the trough. I, for one, am not holding my breath.
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